Loin of lamb with asparagus and lovage

Serves 4

Lovage grows here in the garden at Petersham; it tastes of very peppery celery and grows abundantly and quickly. A little is enough as its flavour can easily overwhelm. Loin of lamb is as tender as butter; it is more expensive than the other cuts but really worth eating from time to time. Asparagus is the perfect accompaniment – produce that falls in the same season has a natural affinity.

4 loins of lamb – weighing about 200g/7oz each, well trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches of asparagus – roughly 5 stalks per person
40g/1 oz unsalted butter
4 sprigs of lovage, well washed – you can leave this out if difficult to find

Season the lamb generously all over. Place a large, flat pan on top of a high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil; allow to heat through, then lay the loins in the pan, spaced well apart. Cook without turning for 4 minutes– you are looking for a crust on the meat – then turn and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the underside. Remove from the pan and place in a warm spot to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will give you lamb that is pink through but in no way rare.

Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the wooden ends. Once the water has boiled, plunge in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, drain and stir in the butter. Season with a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

To serve, slice each loin into 3 slices, divide among warm plates and arrange the asparagus and lovage alongside.

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